Opeth – Watershed (2008)

First off I’d like to quote Akerfeldt in the interview from www.faceculture.nl :

“Everything we’ve done in the past like what you say, what you call the roots… we kind of bring it with us, but I don’t like… I wanna have a clean sleight with every new album, like start with a fresh start and not try to make a similar album… but we have our style.”

It’s a very good concept for a band, making sort of a fresh start every new CD and bringing in new ideas, influences and overall change the sound a bit, yet its also very risky for a band, especially Opeth where a lot of fans put high expectations in every new CD (like me). Like in every album you can feel that it is Opeth. However the context, the atmosphere changes heavily (Take for example: Blackwater Park vs Ghost Reveries). You could compare it to having the same meal, with the same flavor, and the same preparation. The location, the people involved around you while eating it in the place and the general atmosphere surrounding you change. The same goes for Opeth I think: The sounds and style are “opethian” but everything else changes.

The new album is called Watershed, it comes in two versions: One with only the songs listed below, and one with three bonus songs (covers). A special track Mellotron Heart was only available through a special promotional CD with a limited number of copies. The sound has been recorded in 5.1.

We start off with the first song “Coil”, a very serene but dark song but without distorted guitars. Its all clean vocals and clean guitars, featuring also a warm female voice, Nathalie Lorichs. Once again Mr.Akerfeldt proves that a song can be very beautiful, clean and harmonious, but also have a dark, evil side, without using grunts nor distorted guitars. It reminds me a lot of the Damnation album, yet its more direct and less atmospheric.

The second song is Heir Apparent. We’re back to the more classical approach and Opeth sound: Distorted guitars playing complex riffs with a lot of progressive aspects involved. The slower passages have a very obscure and dark feeling coming from them, and after the clean guitar part I felt like the first time I heard Demon of the Fall back on My Arms You Hearse: blown away buy the aggressive nature of the sound and the vocals. This song reminds me a lot of a mix out of all the albums in a 9 minute compact track. Its very diverse, heavy, brutal, and beautiful at the same time. The keys remind me of Baying of the hounds from Ghost Reveries, kicking in and brining a unique flavor. The song itself isn’t music anymore its more like a real piece of art. Its so complex, versatile and unique you need to hear it several times to find everything. Favorite song on this one.

Now for… the Lotus Eater! This song gave me such a good laugh right from the start: I misheard the vocals saying “Liquid is in your throat, with Opeth Deliiight!”. I immediately had a commercial in mind with a black can of alcoholic brewage with the logo Opeth Delight written in golden letters. But let’s come back to the track shall we? Astonishing track, a lot of dark passages with heavy distorted riffs and lyrics combined with melodic slow passages featuring a very atmospheric touch. At the end the style changes to a more progressive jazz-like part, followed up by a increasingly climaxing end. The end itself reveals another kind of secret message. I always wonder, what does Akerfeldt want to show us? We’ll never know I guess…

The next song Burden brings a bit of a serene relief out of all this complexity and timeless brutality. The vocals are heavily emotional and the song itself would be great as an ending song, especially after the beautiful melancholic atmosphere it creates. However it’s a bit repetitive from the point of view in musical theme, the variations remain around the main melody. It’s a masterpiece nonetheless, and the last touch Akerfeldt and Frederick added to the ending of the song makes it even more unique. I won’t spoil it for you, listen to it.

The fifth song, Porcelain heart, is another masterpiece: the dark, obscure atmosphere it weaves around the listener spirals into a climax involving more and more musical elements and aspects. Then comes the clean break, bearing a dark message, best you experience it for yourself. Very dark and awesome track, yet until the climax is reached it tends to be a bit repetitive.

Now comes in my opinion the big crash with the last two songs:

Hessian Peel brings in a lot of new influences, flavours and ideas, with more direct atmospheric passages, which create a complex musical feeling. The message behind the song is dark and heavy, but I don’t see the necessity making it 11.25 minutes long. Its not really an Opeth Opus song like Blackwater Park, The Moor or even Deliverence, every time I listened to it I thought it was two songs, the clash in the middle of the song is too much “ending-introduction” like. Overall it’s an acceptable track but not really what I hoped for in a long track from Opeth.

Hex omega is a very diverse song, but I don’t find it fitting to be an ending song. Overall the ideas are repetitive, it’s kind of like you would take parts from the rest of the album and make a song to fill up the CD. Its my personal feeling, sorry if you think I’m wrong its just how I feel.

Overall feeling? Well it’s a good album, very innovative, progressive and it reaches a new level: This unique flavor and mix of styles and music hasn’t been done by anyone yet, its more like a piece of art. The changes between ideas and riffs are executed flawlessly and the harmony prevails. The sound and mix is very refined but not overproduced, its like the steaks I want to eat if you catch my drift. However it tends to be repetitive and some songs are just overcharged with too much information, the changes are sometimes too fast (Heir apparent), and at other places the musical theme is kept up during an entire song (Burden).

But what I miss most are the old atmospheric parts like in Master’s apprentices from Deliverance and from Blackwater Park CD. The new style is pretty neat, but its somehow unsatisfying. Yes I’ll rest my judgement upon that word… unsatisfying. The album has a lot, if not too much, but maybe I’m not really ready for this kind of turn in Opeth’s music.

The three bonus tracks on the limited edition of the CD are: “Derelict Herds” “Bridge of Sighs” “Den ständiga resan”. I haven’t listened to them yet, but I’ll do in the future when i have a bit more time. Cheers.

Musically I’d give it an 7.5 out of 10, because it still is a hell of a lot complex but for really complex music other bands are ahead of them.

Artistically and from an innovative point of view I’d give it a 10 out of 10. It’s the first album of this kind, and it cannot be compared I think to anything else till now. Chapeau Opeth, your art is great.

Personally I’d give it a 5,5 out of 10, it didn’t impress me in any way and it didn’t give me the “goose bumps”, which I only get when I’m listening to a very good album or something which just sticks into my brain. It was as I said before, unsatisfying (for Opeth).

PS: I think Akerfeldt is kind of addicted to mellotrons don’t you think? Somehow I get this weird feeling he wont stop putting it EVERYWHERE….. Urgh he’s overdoing it.

7/10

Benno

~ by rahjas on June 24, 2008.

7 Responses to “Opeth – Watershed (2008)”

  1. Well… I would have to disagree with the 7.5 “evaluation”. I still cannot understand what is the bottom line in “musically complex”, in terms that you shouldn’t compare Opeth to another “more complex bands”, having to say that they are not an “I’m.gonna.let.you.know.how.great.I.can.play.my.instrument”-band. And its as simple as listening to their albums, you can perfectly see how they’re moving everywhere in their music, or in Akerfeldt’s music, without “overcharging” you with technical aspects, that would only leave a spot in the final result, and that’s because that have never been the intention. It is more like ” it not about using music to show my technique” but “using technique to show my music”, as corny as it sounds.
    Musically I think is a very refreshing album, the sound is flawless, the execution is near to perfect (if not perfect). You can notice after hearing the album, that is a very “honest” work, unifying the ideas from every corner of Mike’s influences, without “overcharge” you with his 70’s-like ideas. For me it was a fullfiling album, in juxtaposition to the “unsatisfying” term you used (of course it’s just a matter of opinion)
    But what I just can’t understand, is how Hessian Peel could be misunderstood at that level! It’s like you haven’t really took the time to really pay attention to what the intention is on this particular cut. It’s almost like to be walking through a gallery of paintings, but really moving into the plot-line of each and one of them. It’s a story told in a perfect way, there shouldn’t be a doubt about it.
    The idea behind a review is not about letting the readers know how you “personally” felt during the song, but to transmit what the band could be trying to say with it. I disagree with your opinion, to the point where I honestly think this is one of Opeth’s most brilliant “Epic” pieces, if that is how you called an over-10-minutes-song.

    Well, the most respectful thing about Opeth, and what they’ve always offered us, is their “artistic” vision of what a “Metal” band should really do. Long ago the metal bands left aside the Art of making music, an focused on just create sounds and words, no worthy of a name such as art. Opeth genuinly worries about giving you a complete Masterpiece, you can see it on their photography, their artwork, their attitude, their lyrics, even their website. This can only add a plus to that entity Opeth is. Watershed is on top of their gallery indeed, but is up to each of us placing each work on the right place, only then you would have experienced this tremendous exhibition.

    Without a doubt, a 9,3 for me. Greetings from Chile.

  2. Well i have talked a lot about the album with friends and it took a long time to finish that review, because i wasn’t too sure about what opeth would have meant and what the main feeling was that the artist wanted to deliver to its listener. Yes I heard the songs a lot and I certainly had a hard time with Hessian peel, but no matter how much I turned it or tried to see it in another light or other way, it didn’t feel right. Everything we experiences in life makes us what we are and music reaches us emotionally on a very personal level and provokes different feelings at each and everyone of us.

    I’m happy to see some kind of reaction to my review, thank you, but i rest on my view, it personally did not touch me in the same way as the other albums. A review should be objective i agree, but saying you should try and “interpreted things into something” doesn’t seem very right, because they are “this or that artist”. If we compare it to the gallery, you may as well put much more attention while looking at the paintings of an artist you like and less of someone you dislike. Then someone who likes the artist would either agree with what you found or disagree. Everything starts with the person behind, the one looking and listening, the one who gets the message. He decides wetherever he likes it or not, and expresses his feeling towards it.

    To be honest every review with a number to it is never objective. I was against the idea of numbers in reviews or any kind, and i don’t apply them during my lessons i give to my students. It gives a fictional place, rank, judgement if you may, which is totally absurd in the first place i admit.

    So I tired to stay on my feet and objective about the what I felt about it. It is a masterpiece, if you read closely, i wrote it a lot of times in terms of “artistically” and “innovative”.
    And by the way with technical elements i didn’t mean *instrument-solo-play-now-like-dream-theatre” read closely:

    Quote: “Overall feeling? Well it’s a good album, very innovative, progressive and it reaches a new level: This unique flavor and mix of styles and music hasn’t been done by anyone yet, its more like a piece of art. The changes between ideas and riffs are executed flawlessly and the harmony prevails. The sound and mix is very refined but not overproduced, its like the steaks I want to eat if you catch my drift. However it tends to be repetitive and some songs are just overcharged with too much information, the changes are sometimes too fast (Heir apparent), and at other places the musical theme is kept up during an entire song (Burden).”

    I feel that you only saw my negative points and were not too happy about the number i gave it. Somehow some points you mentionned are the same as i said in my review, and i don’t understand the “disagree” point. But who cares? A number is only a number. And an opinion only an opinion.

    Greetings from Luxemburg, and thanks for the critique. In appreciation Ben. Sorry for the rather bad english but i just returned from Wacken this moment, and got the mail, still a bit hungover… And Akerfeldt was too during the entire concert ^^ he didn’t talk much😉

  3. PS: about the musical aspect, i give numbers according to 3 main caracteristics, the musical and technical part is another category than the artistic part, i do not mix them because it would be false. So i use 3 criterias in order to stay more objective, rather than just give it “best because i like it very much”…. if it were like that i would have given it the 5,5 i rated above. For me this album is great no doubt, but it is less great for me than for example Blackwater park or Still life, so it gets a lower number, for the personnal point of view. End.

  4. Hi Ben! Well I didn’t know if you will ever answer the coment I did on your review, so it’s very nice to see that we can actually discuss something in a really nice level.
    I’ve read the post I did again, and I must say that you’re right about me focusing on the negative aspects, not that I really focussed on that, It’s just that I wasn’t clear enough, and I’m sorry for that, ’cause I didn’t really mean it. What I didn’t say was that I found your review a very good one, very fair for what an opinion should be, so you have my sincere appreciation.
    The all number thing, I must say is good/bad. It gives you a sense of direction, or a preconception… and that could be very good or very bad, depending on the edge you’re standing. When I comment on the musical aspects, and in general, I meant to give out my opinion, wheter it was the same or different than yours, so don’t see it as a “complete disagreement”, I was just reafirming some of the points in your review.
    Something else I wasn’t clear enough, was that I also think it’s just a matter of opinion, and a personal appreciation <> So, yes it’s a very personal point of view.
    I’ve listen to the album a lot lately, and I can now say that it’s very understandable that you may no be completely satisfyed with it. The more I listen to the album, the more I think of it as a hard dish… so I’d give you credit for that.

    Hope to read more reviews by you, greetings from Chile (one of the most beautiful countries in the world), bye!

    PS: I still cannot understand you don’t like Hessian Peel!!!! lol!
    …oh, and you’re a lucky guy, I’m still waiting for them to actually concret the concert in my country, shouldn’t be difficult thou, having a latinamerican guy in the band, so I “healthly envy you”, cheers!

  5. Thanks mate, well actually i always find it hard to write something, there might always be a misunderstanding with what a person meant, thought and actually wrought… and the misunderstandings the other way round happen also… a professor once told me that there are 8 ways to have a misunderstanding between two persons in a real time conversation… ^^

    Its cool to see that there are actually people out there who are still kind of normal on the internet these days (flames, spams etc on forums give you a hell of a day😉 ), hope to hear from you soon again😀.

    Thank you for the appreciation.

    PS: Seen the site of your band, il be browsing it a bit further, the mp3 are pretty good, i think we might be doing a review if you want of the album or the tracks to make a bit of promo around here (its always cool to have some actual contact with bands). Il talk about this with the others of MFG. Cheers

    PPS: Yeah around europe you have a lot of bands which tour around a lot and you have a lot more opportunities to see bands i agree… Most of the bands usually have problems getting good tours up in south America somehow (heard of some bands that they cancelled because of the organisers etc…) Building up some stable contacts would be nice if your interested.

    Hope to see you soon.

  6. Hi! well, thanks for taking the time to visit our homepage, which is actually very left behind. Let’s see, we released our first LP called Ouroboros in 2006, so it has been a looooong since then, and with that comes some “Maturing” along. With that I want to say that the album resumes 5 years of trajectory, and today is not an album that represents where the band is right now, but it’s a slight taste of what we intended to do.
    It would be an honour if you could do a review some day, really. Maybe you could send me some questions, to get a better picture of the band, ’cause we don’t have any material in English. Feel free to ask anything, we are pleased to answer questions related to any subject.
    If you are interested, I can send you the Album through conventional Mail, so that you can get a complete image, the exterior is just as important as the interior, so I don’t have a problem sending you the album. It’s really an honour, we are just getting back together, and starting all over again the promotion of the album, after being away for almost a year after we lost the drummer, bassist, and the two vocalists. Well, I can give you more information if you like…

    Ok, I don’t want to bore you anymore, so here is my mail:

    zukosso@yahoo.com

    I’ll be waiting an email from you, and don’t forget to visit http://www.myspace.com/darktemplarmusic , there you’ll find 4 tracks to listen.

    Greetings, and thanks a lot man!

    Alex Spencer.

  7. PS: are you a teacher of an specific subject?

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